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More firms ban the hiring of smokers

Creating employee incentive programs can help create an office environment that encourages healthy choices and offers support for those struggling to overcome nicotine additions.

Rising healthcare costs are causing businesses to consider some drastic steps to reduce their expenses. A handful of companies within the healthcare field found a possible solution by restricting the hiring of smokers.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System recently announced a new policy in which candidates who smoke will be turned away even if they meet the qualifications for a position. The decision has many companies in every industry examining their own hiring practices and considering whether to use the strategy to reduce insurance costs.

While smokers are not a protected class under federal law, HR Morning notes that there are 29 states that have laws preventing hiring decisions from being made based on whether an applicant smokes. To avoid legal issues, a more effective strategy for cutting healthcare costs is to enact a corporate wellness program.

Creating employee incentive programs can help create an office environment that encourages healthy choices and offers support for those struggling to overcome nicotine additions. Rewarding workers who complete personal health goals generates a number of benefits for organizations. Not only will insurance expenses be reduced, but healthy workers are more likely to be engaged.

"An employee that's healthier is more present at work, their productivity is higher, and they're happier at work and it creates a better environment," Johan Otter of Scripps Health told PBS.

Forbes states that 67 percent of companies with three or more employees have a wellness program in place. These programs often provide financial incentives for maintaining healthy lifestyles. Rewards can be tailored to meet specific goals, such as helping employers cut the number of smokers on staff. Fifteen percent of companies offer lower premiums for non-tobacco users, according to the source. These programs can also be used to reward individuals who join gyms, lose weight or lower their cholesterol.

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